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Preparing Yourself for Successful Weight Loss

Updated on August 13, 2015
Personal trainer assessing a client's goals and needs as they write a fitness program
Personal trainer assessing a client's goals and needs as they write a fitness program | Source

Are you ready to change?

The first step in preparing yourself for successful weight loss is being ready to lose weight. This is very different from wanting to weigh less. You need to be ready to go through the process of losing weight. Its not an easy process- it takes courage to change. When you are truly ready though, it almost happens on its own. There are 6 stages to the cycle of change and the time for each is not predetermined, you may only be in one phase briefly or you may stagnate there for years at a time. That's ok, every has to go through the process in their own way; in their own time.

Pre-contemplation: You see no problem with being overweight and have never considered losing weight

Contemplation: You begin to considering changing. During this stage, it is like being in two minds- one that is still happy with the way they've always been, and one that wants something new.

Preperation: You begin taking steps to change. You read hubs about preparing yourself for weight loss. You might start buying workout DVDs, exercise equipment, a gym membership, books about dieting, etc., but you don't follow through with any of it because you aren't really ready for the change yet.

Action: You have found a passion for your new way of life (not just the result that you are after by living this way) and your days are consumed with the activities that propel you toward this new you. During this stage, you are using all of the tools and knowledge that you prepared yourself with during the Preperation Stage.

Maintenance: You have moved beyond the obsession and have fully integrated these new behaviors into your daily life. Healthy living is your new normal.

Relapse: This stage is not inevitable but if you should reach it, do not feel defeated- this is a cycle that you can continue through until you are able to hold the maintenance phase. This stage may also happen at other points in the cycle and always brings you back full circle. This is a good thing- you are learning about what works for you and what doesn't. Practice makes perfect! Never give up!

Face your fears and challenge your excuses
Face your fears and challenge your excuses | Source

Face your fears and challenge your excuses

All excuses are rooted in fear. What are you afraid of? Look your fear in the eye and tell it, in no uncertain terms, that it has no more power over you.

Some of us are afraid of change- we became comfortable and complacent in our routines and are afraid to “rock the boat”. You must quell this fear. Change is wonderful and exciting. You have nothing to lose (except the weight).

It is also common to have a fear of failure. Failure is nothing but a learning experience. Don't stay down for the count, get back up and keep fighting. Failure is not an end. Believe that BECAUSE you have tried and failed, you are much more likely to eventually succeed. Life doesn't happen on our terms- let go and just take one day at a time.

The fear of success is one that I know something about. I struggled with that fear for a long time, and it held me back from living my life. I felt like I wasn't worth the effort. I still struggle with realizing my worth outside of helping others. For me personally, a lot of work on my self-esteem and learning to make these compulsive thoughts work for me, helped me overcome this fear. Just like any fear, it will always be there, in the back of my mind, but I've faced it and taken away its power. I have learned that in order to help others, I must first help myself.

Excuses enable poor choices. Before you can change the outcomes of these choices, you much shed your excuses. Living an unhealthy lifestyle is a habit that you can change. If you've ever tried to quit smoking, you know that the hardest part is starting.

The Top 10 Weightloss Excuses

#6 I have an injury/medical condition

It is always important to discuss exercise with your doctor. Whether or not you have an injury or medical condition, you may be able to do any activity you wish, as long as you start slow and increase gradually, or you may be advised to avoid certain exercises. Unless you are confined to your bed, it is very unlikely your doctor will advise that you do no exercise at all. If you're using asthma as an excuse (as I did for many years), you're fooling yourself. You will breath better without the extra weight. Just talk to your doctor and use your inhaler before working out

#1 I'm too Busy

Malarkey! You make the time for things that you want to do- you can make time for this. This excuse may have worked for you in other situations, but it's time to call 'BS' on it here. You control time, it does not control you. You may need to reprioritize some other parts of your life- your health, happiness, and longevity has to be more important. The longer you wait, the more damage you are doing to your body. Get real! Stop telling yourself how busy you are. Get a day planner and write down everything you do in a day. Keep it as a time journal at first, and slowly start using it to plan ahead. You will find that you have more time than you thought.

#7 There's Too Much Temptation in My Life

For many years, I worked in fast food and used that as an excuse for being overweight. It is tempting to look at that food, and smell it and talk about it all day. I got over it eventually and started bringing my own food whenever possible or made healthier versions of things that weren't on the menu. Sip on cold water all day and have a high protein snack to control your hunger before you go into a high temptation zone. It's a struggle, but not a reason not to try. And if the temptation is avoidable in any way, consider making that change for your health.

#2 Too Tired/Stressed

Um... ya! Because you aren't moving. You have to get up and move to tell your body to make energy. You need to eat right and get all the nutrition that your body needs. If you're convinced that you can't lose weight for this reason, you have it completely backwards. A healthy diet and active lifestyle will increase your energy and your ability to handle stress, as well as improve your mood. It may be hard to start, but your body will adapt. Your breathing and circulation will change, your muscles will strengthen, your nervous system will acutally "wake up" and become much more active. This is a reason TO lose weight, not a reason not to!

#8 I've failed before

So? I had to quit smoking 6 times before I finally stuck to it. Practice makes perfect. What did you learn each time you tried? What did work and what didn't work? Were you doing things that were relevant to you, or just following someone else's generic directions? (Read on for help making specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals)

#3 I'm Too Old

It's true that you have to eat and exercise differently, but not that you have to be overweight. Older populations especially benefit from the guidance of a personal trainer. They can teach you how to perform exercises to minimize injury and actually prevent future injury. You will have to work harder than you did when you were younger, but you can do this! Losing those extra pounds will greatly improve your quality of life, health and longevity.

#9 I don't like or can't afford the foods I will have to eat

Your taste buds change through out your life. You probably don't like the same things you liked as a kid. You can gradually change your preferences without dramatically changing your grocery bill. The best tip is to shop the outside perimeter of your grocery store and buy unpackaged foods from the produce and deli departments. You'll avoid preservatives and additives, and you aren't paying for multimillion dollar ad campaigns. Also, shop in season- the harder it is to get an item to your store, the more it is going to cost.

#4 My whole family is obese, it's genetic

Some of your metabolism is determined by genetics, but you can make any metabolism work for you by changing your habits. Most of your family's obesity problem is more likely due to shared habits. You probably learned your unhealthy eating and inactive lifestyle from them. Be the first to change and show them it can be done. Be an example. Don't pass this disease any further! Break the circle!

#10 I can't change because of how my spouse/family/roommate eats

Try saying this to them once. They'll probably set you straight. If they're reinforcing this, maybe it's time to move. Have you ever even asked them if they would be on board? They might want to be healthier too and are using the same excuse without you knowing. If you talk about it, you can probably get them to support you.

#5 I have a slow metabolism

First of all, dieting doesn't work! You need to look at what you're already doing and change one small thing at a time. There is no single answer. You may or may not get lucky at the "diet lottery" and find one that does something for you, but there are definite ways to change your life now and forever. For nearly all people, weight gain is behavioral not medical. Metabolic syndrome is rare and unless a doctor has told you that you have it, you should self-diagnose. You have YOUR metabolism, just learn how to use it.

Weight Category by BMI and corresponding weight (in lbs)


What is your Weight Category according to this chart?

See results

Know what you should weigh

Many dieters don't actually know what they should weigh and this often creates a great deal of self-imposed stress and pressure. It is important to know what is a healthy weight for your height. Make it a habit to refer to science when setting your goals and not to magazines or clothing stores. (It's very easy to dress a hanger. Too many designers get attention by taking this lazy approach)

Click on the chart to the right to view it full size. It is based on BMI, or Body Mass Index, which is a method of calculating how much mass you have per inch that you are tall. This is probably the most common method of estimating a person's ideal weight, although there are several others. For example, Body Fat Percentage may be the most accurate way to predict certain health risks and is especially appropriate for athletes. I've included a 'gray' area in this chart to account for the area where body fat percentage is much more important than BMI. There are special scales that will estimate your body fat percentage. The most accurate methods require specialized medical technicians and can be very costly. As long as you understand that the body fat scales, and even skin fold calipers, are only an estimate and you aren't a professional athlete, there's no need for cumbersome testing. Ideal measurements are 14-24% for women, and 6-17% for men. The obesity threshold for men is 25% and 32% for women.

Learn the fundamentals of weightloss

You probably know the basics- that eating less and moving more results in weight loss. Often though, there are other factors at play.

It is critically important to have 3 meals every single day. Skipping breakfast because you don’t have time, or to save on calories is truly doing the opposite of what you may think. You are more likely to experience mood swings, menstrual disturbances, decreased sex drive, pre-diabetic symptoms, and your immune system may become weakened and leave you susceptible to infection. When you skip meals, you start a domino effect of hormonal imbalance. Your body thinks it needs to store calories and ration them out slowly because it may not have food again soon. Essentially, your body thinks that there’s a shortage and uses only what it needs and stockpiles the rest. That stockpile is called body fat. Not eating enough or not eating often enough also causes you to gain weight because your body is trying to fill the gap. Every day needs to include a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It may also be beneficial to have 5 or 6 smaller meals throughout your day, but at least 3 is ideal.

It is also important to manage your stress. Stress puts great physical strain on the body and can lead to serious health problems, not least of which is obesity. The feeling of "stress" is produced in your body by hormones including cortisol. Cortisol changes our metabolism and can lead to weight gain and even affects where our bodies store the extra weight. Weight related to stress is mostly stored in our abs, giving us the appearance of a "beer belly" or "pregnancy bump". When you are stressed, you are also much more likely to eat emotionally and crave fatty, sweet and salty foods and to overeat those foods. The way our body processes sugar also changes under stress which results in unstable blood sugar levels, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, and diabetes. Learn to control your stress. It's ok to admit you need help. You aren't less than "normal" because you need help managing stress, you are striving to be better than "normal".

Knowing how many calories your body actually needs will also help you immensely. Use the following equation to determine the amount of calories that you need in order to maintain your current weight. Then cut 500-1000 calories out of each day to lose 1-2 lbs weekly. Also increasing your caloric output, or activity level, will increase the amount of weight you are able to lose.

Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

Then multiply your BMR by 1.2 if you don't exercise regularly, 1.375 if you exercise 1-3 times weekly, and 1.55 if you exercise most days.

Example: I am male, so I'll use the formula for Men. I weigh 179, I am 71 inches tall (5'11), and 29 years old. I also workout 1-3 times weekly.

BMR = 66 + (6.23 x 179) + (12.7 x 71) - (6.8 x 29)
BMR = 66 + 1115.17 + 901.7 - 197.2
BMR = 2280.07
2280.07 x 1.375 = 3135.1

So to lose weight, I need approximately 2200-2600 calories.

IMPORTANT: Calorie intake should never drop below 1200 for women, and 1800 for men. This is the minimum the organs of your body need to function properly.

(article continued below)

Set a SMART goal

Knowing where you're going is the first step to getting there. The more clearly you can visualize your destination and the path to it, the more likely you are to succeed. Is it realistic for you to get where you're aiming, and is it even healthy? You goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART). What does that mean?

Use those old questions you learned in English class to flesh out your goal- Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. This will help you to be more specific and bring your destination into focus. Be sure to set a goal for how much weight you want to lose, how many inches, or what size you want to fit into. You should be able to track your progress along the way and know when you've accomplished your goal. Its great to reach for the stars, but it's going to take several smaller steps to get there. As a rule of thumb, I recommend focusing on no more than 10% of your current weight at a time. When you reach that goal, celebrate and set a new goal.

Be sure that you target your plan to your specific needs. There is no packaged diet or exercise program that is the answer for everyone. If you drink a lot of soda, you might choose to eliminate or reduce that habit, but if you only drink one can a day or less, this won't make a significant impact within your time frame. Look somewhere else instead. Do you eat a lot of fried foods? Start there instead. Make it matter to you. If you're already walking every day- walking a little more isn't going to make a significant difference for you. Try jogging more until you can jog the same distance you were walking. It also doesn't make sense to work hard at building muscle when your goal is weight loss. Some weight training is good for injury prevention, and because muscle mass increases your metabolism, but unless your goal is to bulk up, take it easy on the dumbbells.

Put your goal on the calendar! If it isn't written down, it isn't going to happen. Make yourself accountable for this goal and look at your calendar for motivation and to help you stick to your plan.

Which of these sounds like the best reward for your weight loss?

See results

Track your progress and reward your accomplishments

Because it is normal for your weight to fluctuate throughout the day and from day to day, it is recommend that you not weigh yourself more often than once weekly. It is best to weigh yourself in the morning, before breakfast and after you empty your bladder and bowel, in your robe or naked. This will ensure a more accurate reading. If you lost weight- reward yourself with a sensible treat. If you didn't, don't worry about it- look ahead to the following week. Its a good idea to set your reward ahead of time and give yourself something to look forward to. Write it on your calendar with your weight goal, and write how much you lose each week and how much is left to lose.


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